2019 Volume 11, Issue 2, plz019
Variation in gene expression has been shown to promote adaptive divergence, and can lead to speciation. The plant genus Melastoma, thought to have diversified through adaptive radiation, provides an excellent model for the study of gene expressional changes during adaptive differentiation and following interspecific hybridization. In this study, we performed RNA-seq on M. candidum, M. sanguineum and their F1 hybrid, to investigate the role of gene expression in species diversification within the genus. Reference transcriptomes were assembled using combined data from both parental species, resulting in 50 519 and 48 120 transcripts for the leaf and flower petal, after removing redundancy. Differential expression analysis uncovered 3793 and 2116 differentially expressed (DE) transcripts, most of which are between M. candidum and M. sanguineum. Differential expression was observed for genes related to light responses, as well as genes that regulate the development of leaf trichomes, a trait that among others is thought to protect plants against sunlight, suggesting the differential adaptation of the species to sunlight intensity. The analysis of positively selected genes between the two species also revealed possible differential adaptation to other abiotic stresses such as drought and temperature. In the hybrid, almost all possible modes of expression were observed at the DE transcripts, although at most transcripts, the expression levels were similar to that of either parent instead of being intermediate. A small number of transgressively expressed transcripts that matched genes known to promote plant growth and adaptation to stresses in new environments were also found, possibly explaining the vigour observed in the hybrid. The findings in this study provided insights into the role of gene expression in the diversification of Melastoma, which we believe is an important example for more cross-taxa comparisons in the future.
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